THE rampant theft of stock in the Cathcart farming community is costing sheep farmers millions of rands annually. Hundreds of animals are stolen – yet only a handful of suspects are caught.
Some farmers attribute the theft to the work of a syndicate operating along the N6.
Since last Thursday, John Wardle of Rundel farm has lost 27 sheep, including 10 pregnant ewes.
“This makes it 83 sheep I’ve lost just this year and that has set me back more than R130000,” Wardle said yesterday.
Neighbouring farmers have also complained of rampant stock losses due to theft in recent weeks.
“We are in a critical situation here,” Wardle said. “We love what we are doing as it creates jobs for a number of people in this community, but these thugs are paralysing us. Police are doing what they can but the criminals keep on coming back for more.”
Besides depending on the police for security, farmers have tried using the services of private security companies, but that proved fruitless and expensive.
Wardle said they had opted for expensive cellphone collars which were used on the sheep.
“The criminals are clever and they have means of dodging or knowing those [sheep] which have collars. We suspect this might be an inside job in the area,” he said.
Last year, Wardle lost 110 sheep, which cost him R165000.
“I had to offer R10000 cash to my employees to assist in catching the suspects,” he said.
Yesterday, Wardle had to put down 10 ewes which had their legs broken by criminals who tried to steal them.
The animals were discovered near the N6.
Farm worker Eddie Nguta said the rampant stock theft was costing them their jobs because it was slowly putting farmers out of business.
“The solution for us here is to have a stock theft unit which is closer to us and which can act swiftly to arrest the suspects,” Nguta said.
“My colleagues are losing their jobs because one sheep that is lost has a bad impact on the employer’s income.
Eastern Cape police spokesman Captain Ernest Sigobe confirmed that a case of stock theft had been reported in Queenstown.
“Stock theft is rampant in that area and we can confirm the recent incident. The case is being investigated.” Sigobe called on farmers and the community to assist police in tracking down the culprits.
“We are calling on the community to assist police in fighting this crime which is badly affecting our farmers,” he said.
“If farm dwellers see a suspect person wandering around, police must be called to investigate.”